Donald Trump has vowed to use a contentious provision to unilaterally reinstate UN sanctions on Tehran, following what Iran’s president said was a humiliating defeat for the US in its bid to extend an arms embargo on Tehran.
A day after the UN security council overwhelmingly rejected a US resolution to extend the embargo, Trump said at a news conference at his New Jersey golf club: “We’ll be doing a snapback. You’ll be watching it next week.”
The US president was referring to the contested argument that the US remains a “participant” in the 2015 Iran nuclear deal – despite Trump’s withdrawal from it – and therefore can force a return to sanctions if it sees Iran as being in violation of its terms.
European allies have been sceptical on whether Washington can force sanctions, however, with experts saying a “snapback” threatens to plunge the council into one of its worst ever diplomatic crises.
Iran’s president said earlier on Saturday that the US had suffered a humiliating defeat when the council voted on the American proposal on Friday.
Russia and China voted against, while 11 members – including France, Germany and Britain – abstained. The US and the Dominican Republic were the only votes in favour.
“I don’t remember the US preparing a resolution for months to strike a blow at the Islamic Republic of Iran, and it garners only one vote,” the Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, said in a televised speech. “But the great success was that the US was defeated in this conspiracy with humiliation.”
Iran’s foreign minister, Abbas Mousavi, wrote: “In the 75 years of United Nations history, America has never been so isolated”, while people on the streets of Tehran had mixed reactions.
“This is an American political game. One day they give a resolution to the security council, the next they say they have taken Iranian fuel,” said a worker at the city’s grand bazaar, who gave his name only as Ahmadi.
A drug store employee named Abdoli told AFP she was happy Iran won but added that it “should interact with the United States and establish relations”.
The UN arms embargo on Iran is due to expire under a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, which allowed many international sanctions against Iran to be lifted in exchange for curbs on Iran’s nuclear programme. Donald Trump withdrew the US from the deal in 2018.
“It’s a serious mistake, we regret that,” the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, said on Saturday of the security council vote in a news conference during a visit to Poland.
Israeli’s foreign minister, Gabi Ashkenazi, said the security council’s decision not to extend the arms embargo on Iran could lead to further Middle East instability.
“The extremist regime in Iran doesn’t just finance terrorism: it takes an active part in terrorism through its branches around the world and uses it as a political tool. This behaviour represents a danger to regional and international stability,” Ashkenazi said in a statement on Saturday.
The security council vote followed a proposal made by the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, for a summit of world leaders to avoid “confrontation” over the American threat to trigger a return of all UN sanctions on Tehran. Trump also said Saturday he would “probably not” take part in the summit.
“I think we’ll wait until after the election,” he said, with the US set to hold its presidential poll in November.
Speaking in Poland, Pompeo made it clear the US would press on.
“It is unfortunate that the French and the United Kingdom … didn’t support what the Gulf states have demanded, what the Israelis have demanded … I regret that deeply,” Pompeo told reporters.
“The United States is determined to make sure that the Iranians and this regime, this theocratic regime does not have the capacity to inflict even more harm on the world.”